By Dan Murphy
A Beacon Hill resident and lifelong Bostonian with firsthand experience at City Hall and a proven commitment to affordable housing, Jon Spillane has announced his candidacy for City Councilor at-Large.
Spillane, a 29-year-old Irving Street resident, has taken a leave a leave of absence from his role as City Councilor Kenzie Bok’s Director of Budget and Constituent Services to focus on his campaign. He grew up in Hyde Park as the son of two civil servants – his father was a police officer and his mother the city’s deputy commissioner of elderly affairs – so, he said, community organizing and civic engagement, such as taking part in neighborhood cleanups or helping to turn out voters on Election Day, were “part of his family’s everyday life,” as well as something that has left an “indelible impression” on him.
A graduate of Boston Latin School and Boston College, Spillane spent several years working in multi-residential real estate sales and financing, which, he said, made him aware of the city’s housing crisis and subsequently compelled him to find employment that would combine his experience in the private sector with his lifelong commitment to public service.
“After a couple of years in the private sector, I started taking account of what direction my life was going,” Spillane said. “My parents were both civil servants so I had an inclination towards the public sector and being publically engaged.”
In September of 2017, Spillane joined the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) as part of a team, he said, that “leveraged city resources – NHT grants, HUD funding, city-owned parcels, and inclusionary zoning requirements” – to build more than 1,000 affordable housing units citywide.
In January of 2020, Kenzie Bok began her first term as District 8 City Councilor, and Spillane became the Director of Budget and Constituent Services for her office.
“I saw it as an opportunity to contribute and participate in the policy-making process that impacts the city on a wide scale and also as an excellent opportunity to get experience at City Hall and practically apply a lot of the things I learned at DND,” said Spillane, who had previously known Councilor Bok through community engagement and local politics.
In his new role, Spillane has had regular contact with the city’s Office of Housing Stability on Court Street, which is part of DND and located just a few floors away from where he previously worked, so he was already well acquainted with the staff there.
“I can’t say enough good things about the Office of Housing Stability and the amazing job they’ve done,” Spillane said.
Meanwhile, Spillane “helped manage one of the toughest city budgets in recent memory,” he said, as Director of Budget for Councilor Bok, who serves as Chair of Ways and Means. He also said he has “contributed to new policy discussions that resulted in new ordinances.”
Moreover, Spillane has worked as an advocate for Bostonians affected by COVID-19 by helping tenants access rent relief and by connecting struggling small businesses with the city’s Office of Economic Development.
Outside of work, Spillane previously served on Mayor Martin Walsh’s Spark Boston Council, which partners with City Hall to represent and advocate for young Bostonians, ages 20 to 34. He is currently a member of the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee, as well as a founder and current Young Professional Board Member of the Genesis Foundation for Children, a nonprofit that helps children with rare diseases and rare genetic disorders.
With his campaign now underway, Spillane said affordable housing is one of the biggest issues now facing the city, and in the spring, he said he would soon release his plan for policy ideas that can be implemented at the local level.
“I’m utilizing things I learned through my work at DND and at City Hall,” he said of the plan.
Spillane also describes his knowledge of constituent services, such as being able to connect someone seeking assistance at the with the appropriate city department as he has done throughout his time in Councilor Bok’s office, as being “vitally important” to the role of City Councilor.
“We need someone at City Hall who understands budgeting and has a background in finance,” Spillane added, “and can advocate for countercyclical fiscal policy” – an approach that increases capital spending and the debt level during an economic downturn.
As City Councilor at-Large, Spillane would also advocate for small businesses, he said, and seek to improve the sometimes-strained communication between small businesses and city and state government.
“One thing I heard from a lot of small business during the peak of COVID was the lack of communication on getting information from the state-level down,” he said.
“Having a councilor who saw their frustration firsthand and can use their office as a microphone [could promote] transparency.”
Another asset that Spillane would bring to the role of City Councilor at-Large is his legal background.
He attended Suffolk University’s Evening Program while working at the DND and Councilor Bok, graduating in May of 2020, and as he looks forward to seeking Bar Admission this spring, Spillane said he has been inspired by City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who, as an attorney, he said, “has been able to do some amazing things at City Hall.”
And for Spillane, that’s something to aspire to.
To learn more about Jon Spillane’s campaign for City Councilor at-Large, visit http://jonforboston.com, or follow him on
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